• Tue. May 30th, 2023

Cord-cutters threaten regional sports networks


May 26, 2023

A man reclines in a black chair with hands above his head in front of several TV screens playing a sporting game.

In March, Diamond Sports Group, the biggest owner of regional sports networks, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts through Getty Pictures

As buyers reduce cable solutions in favor of streaming platforms, regional sports networks are at threat of going below. In the initially quarter of 2023, an estimated two.three million Americans ditched conventional cable packages. And as additional Americans move toward streaming platforms, these regional cable networks are losing additional dollars.

“Marketplace” host Kai Ryssdal spoke with Ben Strauss, a sports and media reporter for The Washington Post, about how regional sports networks are fairing as additional Americans pass on cable, and what this could imply for sports fans about the nation.

The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.

Kai Ryssdal: For these maybe unfamiliar, what precisely are regional sports networks?

Ben Strauss: They are cable networks that for the previous 20 to 30 years have shown just about just about every a single of your favourite baseball, hockey and NBA teams.

Ryssdal: And regional, as it implies, is not a national point. It is every single area, you know, there is a network for every single and just about every area and group, suitable?

Strauss: Specifically. So, the teams in Dallas are on a single network. In Chicago, up till lately, the Cubs and the White Sox and the Bulls and Blackhawks are on the very same network.

Ryssdal: OK. And the point of this piece, and the point that truly might transform sports, as we sort of know it, is that these regional sports networks are going broke, fundamentally.

Strauss: Fundamentally, they are in deep problems. Primarily, as people today leave cable, the charges that they had been paying to these networks that these networks, then in turn, had been paying to these teams are dropping considerably. And a single of the major owners of these networks, a organization named Diamond Sports, filed for bankruptcy protection earlier this year. And there are teams that have not received their rights payments, which is potentially landscape-altering for sports.

Ryssdal: So, the leagues have a vested interest in saving these regional sports networks. What are they carrying out?

Strauss: So, unique leagues are carrying out unique items. Diverse teams, in reality, are carrying out unique items. Baseball does not think in this organization — this Diamond Sports organization. And so, baseball would sort of like to have all these teams pull their rights back and make some sort of solution that you could see on cable that you could stream straight by itself. Most NHL and NBA teams would sort of like to see this model milked for anything it is worth as extended as the checks are nonetheless cashing for the subsequent couple of years. So, it is a small bit of a hodgepodge, and it is definitely not specific how it is going to play out.

Ryssdal: Messy sounds like a excellent word right here, suitable?

Strauss: Yes, yes, you are excellent at this.

Ryssdal: So appear, spare a believed for me right here for the fans, who all they want to do is watch their teams, and now since streaming is up and in cable tv, and since the league’s want dollars, and the regional sports networks are going broke, what’s a fan supposed to do?

Strauss: Effectively, so actually exciting query about getting a sports fan for the final even though, suitable? One particular of the motives that these networks have been so worthwhile is that all of these people today who didn’t watch sports, had been paying for them. Everyone has a cable subscription, and everybody’s paying 3, 4 or 5 even six dollars a month for that regional sports network, even if they do not watch a minute. And so, it is sort of in this á la carte model exactly where people today are leaving the cable bundle., in the end, the teams sort of have this option, like do you want to attain additional people today, and do you believe about one thing on broadcast TV—which is a actually old college point that would make the games offered to a massive quantity of people today. Diamond is fighting that. and so do you want to attain the most quantity of fans, or do you want to gather the most quantity of dollars by going on to a streaming service exactly where people today have to spend additional to discover you? And, it is sort of this balancing act.

Ryssdal: And the catch is that you cannot have them each, suitable?

Strauss: The catch is you cannot have them each. And so in the end, I would believe that sports fans are going to finish up paying additional for their sports.